Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ruffed Grouse

Today I hiked through our arboretum and woods to Agency Creek. I did not find the hoped-for American Dipper. But on the walk back, I flushed a Ruffed Grouse. This is not an unusual happening, but what was unusual was that it landed in a tree and stayed there long enough for me to get a photo.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bald Eagle

A  Bald Eagle landed on our big snag while I was doing chores this morning. I ran for the house to get the camera. (Someday I'll remember to keep it with me.) The eagle stayed for quite some time. I went ahead and milked goats. Johnny continued to watch and said that, at one point, a Red-tailed Hawk flew toward the snag (one sits there most mornings) but made a U-turn when it saw the eagle and left. Johnny watched the eagle take off and fly downstream along the creek, likely hunting for fish. Such beautiful birds. I lightened the last photo to show off that white head better.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Yellow-shafted Flicker

Abby Jaworski in Oregon City has this female Yellow-shafted variety of Northern Flicker coming to her feeder. The first three photos were taken by Abby's husband. The last one I cropped and lightened.

Pretty cool since we normally get Red-shafted here or occasionally a hybrid. I've not seen a yellow-shafted since I left the midwest, although I'm told they are sometimes seen east of the Cascades.

Since these photos were posted, the experts on OBOL (Oregon Birders On LIne) told us that maybe 1% of the wintering Northern Flickers west of the Cascades are pure Yellow-shafted. They are pretty site specific, like most wintering birds... that is, they return each year to the same sites, which may be why I've never seen one. None has picked my farm yet. Thanks to Abby for sharing!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Snow Birds

As of tonight, our paths are no longer skating rinks. Yesterday, the melt began but turned to ice overnight. Before the snow had entirely melted, I took some photos of cold birds in the snow.

Red-tailed Hawk on frozen fir

Great Blue Heron in the goat pasture
California Quail looking for food
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow and Spotted Towhee
Fox Sparrow and Towhee
We must have had twenty or more Fox Sparrows here during the cold snap.
Fox Sparrow from the front
Fox Sparrow back
Varied Thrushes were everywhere
As always this time of year, many Golden-crowned Sparrows, most not very golden crowned yet.
There were so many birds, like these American Robins, working on fallen apples below the back yard apple trees that they cleared out even the snow.
I call these two unusually colored robins The White Brothers. They seemed to hang out together.
Captured in an unusual moment of getting along together were these four species: Varied Thrush, one of the White Brother robins, Spotted Towhee, and Fox Sparrow
It was nice having lots of birds to brighten the cold scene, but I'm glad the snow has mostly melted now and the water has thawed. Winter came early this year. Perhaps spring will be early, too. One can hope.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Who Did the Fowl Deed and To Whom Was It Done?

Circumstantial evidence points to our resident Barn Owls, who I thought only ate rodents. The feathers were found under the beam where they sit nightly in Johnny's shop. The absence of any but a couple down feathers makes me think it was not the Cooper's hawk who hunts birds here daily.

Keying out the feathers with the feather id guide online led me here:   We do have a (or did have) a resident Red-breasted Sapsucker. Perhaps it was too cold to find a proper place to hang out for the night and fell prey to a hungry Barn Owl.

I wait for the experts to weigh in on this sad story. Temperature overnight was 12 degrees F (warmer than the 2 degrees of the night before) and has not been above freezing (or even above 20) for days. We still have the four inches of snow that fell five days ago, except now it is mostly ice. Tough times for birds.

The word is in. Wildlife Biologist Cathy Nowak writes:

I have seen many instances of bird remains in Barn Owl pellets here in
NE Oregon.  They seem especially prone to eating birds when the rodent
populations are low.  As you said, it is tough out there for birds right
now, including barn owls.
It can be especially hard on the owls, as well as hawks, if the snow
takes on a hard crust. 
A quick look at my feather references leads me to think you are right on
with the ID of your Re-breasted.

M. Cathy Nowak
Certified Wildlife Biologist(r)
Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area
The plot thickens... The above was posted before I dissected the most recent owl pellets near these feathers... and found 4 rodent skulls and bones, no birds. I think I accused the Barn Owl unjustly. True, they occasionally take birds, but the fact that only some of the wing feathers and no others were under the beam makes me suspect the Cooper's Hawk who hunts birds here daily. I am told that Coops and Sharpies often take a bird and pluck some flight feathers, then fly off to another perch to finish plucking and devour their meal. I suspect that is what happened to my unfortunate Red-breasted Sapsucker. This is what comes of jumping to conclusions without adequate proof.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

North Santiam Raptor Route

Once a month from November through March, Johnny and I drive a raptor route more or less bordering the North Santiam River. We start on the Marion County side, switch to the Linn County side at Mehama, then cross back over at Gates to Marion county and return to our starting point via various back roads. Although we are always fairly close to the river, we seldom catch a glimpse of it. Ours is one of hundreds of routes throughout Oregon that monitor wintering raptors.

To our surprise last raptor route season, we found a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks hanging out in the Lyons City Park/John Neal Park area bordering the North Santiam River on the Linn County side. These lovely hawks, more common in California and southern Oregon, seem to be moving steadily northward.

On our November trek this fall, I hiked around the parks looking for the hawks while Johnny kept vigil by the ponds at the road. I did find one Red-shoulder, but it flew before I could get a photo. A cell phone call from Johnny shortly after told me that it had landed with another in his view across the pond. He took photos. Here is the habitat. They were perched in a tree directly across the water in about the center of the photo (but good look seeing them).

And here are the hawks as Johnny photographed them from his vantage point.

This month, December, we were hopeful of finding these lovely birds again. But they were elusive. I hiked all the way around the many ponds and paths before seeing one perched in the shadows.

 I had a very short window to zoom it in before it flew.

Although the Red-shoulders seem to be regulars on our route now, we saw another raptor this December that is not a regular during the winter months. In fact, we were quite surprised to see it sitting in a tall tree in the middle of a field at least a mile from the river. This osprey should have been way south by now, but there it was far from water on a cold day in northern Oregon.

Before we continued on our route, the bird flew over and past us, heading more or less in the direction of the North Santiam River. We did not expect to see it again.

But we did. Four hours later, on our return trip, there it was, perched in the same tree in the middle of the field near Stayton. This time, it was munching a fish.

If it stays all winter, I hope it finds enough open water with enough fish. The temperature dropped into the teens that night. The North Santiam River does not freeze over, so maybe this bird has a chance.

Although we do not see the hordes of raptors on this canyon route that flatlanders see, we never know what surprises will be thrown our way.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Accipiter Confusion

I had no doubt when I saw this bird right outside our back door that it was an adult Cooper's Hawk, in spite of the indented tail. It was crow sized, had the sloping head I associate with Cooper's, capped look. The margin of the tail appeared white, not dusky.

Then I looked at the photos. How could any "shins" be sharper than these???


Someone please tell me what this bird is and why. I thought I had finally mastered Accipiters --- at least those sitting still a few feet from me --- but apparently not.

Postscript: the wonderful people at Oregon Birders OnLine have come through with the definitive word: it's a Sharpie. They each had different reasons, however. Charles Gates says sharp shins and eye position (closer to the middle of the head in a Sharpie, which has a smaller head), Pamela Johnston relied on head size. Karen Saxton gave this great website:

But Karen's suggestion to measure the branch was the most conclusive for me. I ran outside and measured: 2 inches. Ergo the hawk could only have been 10 inches tall (or slightly more when not scrunched down digesting a meal, the remains of which are in its talons). That's Sharp-shin size, not Cooper size. I guess when a bird is close to you, it looks bigger than when it is farther away. Duh.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Raptor Run of the Season

Since the weather was scheduled to turn normal-November rainy on November 2nd, I opted to do my Grand Ronde raptor route on Friday, November 1, while the weather was still good. Johnny and friend Dawn and I had a great run and I even got a few photos.

Within the first few miles from home (our starting point), we saw four White-tailed Kites between Tyee Rd. and Hebo Rd. in Grand Ronde. Here are two of them...

and then a mile south along Grand Ronde Rd... the spectacular white-winged Red-tailed Hawk that has lived in the Grand Ronde area for many years sat and posed. Someday I'll get a photo of him in flight with that beautiful red tail against the white wings...

... A well-camouflaged Cooper's Hawk was along McPherson Rd. in Grand Ronde. Fortunately, it flew across the road right in front of us before landing and melting into the tree.

A few miles west we found another Kite in an area where we used to see them regularly, some years ago, in a field on the south side of Hwy 18 just before the road dives into the woods west of Grand Ronde.

We saw a total of 12 kites on this run but none of the others were close enough for photos.

On private property off Willamina Creek Rd., we saw one Red-shouldered Hawk where we have seen a pair the past couple of years. It was quite far away but I couldn't resist attempting a photo. Such a beautiful bird.
The two Rough-legged Hawks off Old Wallace Bridge Rd. did not stick around long enough for me to get them in my viewfinder. Maybe next time. We saw four more kites there... way off.

On the Oregon Wildlife private road, we had no trouble photographing this lone Impala. I take a photo of him almost every time I go there. He poses as though he expects it.

What a great start to our winter raptor route season!

Totals on our 77.5 mile route, for the curious: 42 Red-tailed Hawks, 18 American Kestrels, 14 Northern Harriers, 2 Rough-legged Hawks, 12 White-tailed Kites, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 2 Barn Owls (Fink Family Farm residents), and 4 unidentified raptors either too high in the sky or with someone coming up fast behind me and no place to pull over.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Black Oystercatchers

As soon as I say that Black Oystercatcher monitoring season is over for the year, I prove myself wrong. I just could not resist one more trip to Short Beach, between Oceanside and Cape Meares, to see if any fledglings came to bathe in the fresh water that flows down from a reservoir above. This is a favorite gathering spot for gulls and BLOY (Black Oystercatchers). As many as 28 were seen there last month.

However, on Friday, Oct. 25, there was only one. It happened to be a fledgling. This was exciting because we know that no chicks fledged from the Cape Meares or Short Beach nests, which means this bird almost certainly came from the Oceanside rocks, where we have yet to find nesting BLOY, although we're rather sure they must nest there. When this fledgling left the bathing area, it flew toward those rocks.

As soon as I get one site figured out...  ...another enigma arises.

Here is the fledgling... so timid around the gulls that he ended up taking his bath in the ocean instead of the fresh water.

In juveniles, the bill starts out short and dark and gradually lengthens and develops the bright red-orange color of the adult. Also, the eye develops its red ring gradually.

Somewhere in these rocks off Oceanside (photo taken from Short Beach), this bird was hatched... Another mystery to solve in another nesting season...


Today a flock of six Western Bluebirds visited our back fields as they seem to do each fall. I just wish they would come back in the spring to nest. Only one year did one pair nest here.

I was so excited about seeing and hearing bluebirds (I love their soft murmuring voices), that I ordered five more bluebird boxes to put up along another fence line in hopes that will make enough for everyone. The bluebirds have to compete with swallows and house sparrows for nest boxes. The swallows seem to mostly prefer the gourds. I just took down and cleaned twenty-four nest gourds and have them stored in the heated tack room for winter. The house sparrows prefer our five wooden bluebird houses and fight over them with the less-gourd-oriented swallows, so I'm hoping five more boxes, in a different location, will entice bluebirds to stick around next spring. Like this pair...

The bluebirds seem not at all camera shy, and I took many photos. Here are a few. Okay, more than a few. Bluebirds are very photogenic and, on this day at least, cooperative.

Okay, so maybe I did annoy this one.
Here's hoping for a bluebird spring!